Yogita Bhayana once had a glamorous career in aviation, but eventually quit her job to take up activism. After Nirbhaya’s case, she started PARI, an organisation that works to rehabilitate rape victims and get them the justice they need.
Throughout the fight for justice for Nribhaya, one person was at the forefront. She is Yogita Bhayana, the activist and fighter for justice for rape victims.
Yogita wanted to help people in need from a young age itself. She recalls raising funds for the elderly at her school and teaching kids under a tree in front of her house in Delhi. But the turning point in her life came when she was 22 years old. She was pursuing a glamorous career in aviation. One day, she witnessed a brutal traffic accident, where the preparator fled the scene leaving the victim on the road.
According to Yogita, no one dared to come to help the victim. Yogita and her friend took the man to the hospital. But because of the system, by the time the man was given medical attention, it was too late. He passed away leaving a wife and a few young children. Yogita stayed with the wife and helped them get court justice. This incident made her realise how difficult it is to get justice and the complications of the court procedures. This incident led Yogita to start her activism. She quit her job in aviation to spend her full time in social work.
In 2007, she formed the Das Charitable Foundation to help victims of road accidents, spread awareness about the need for hospital reform, try to bring them justice, and more. Alongside, she was conducting employment generation programmes for women. She worked in Das till 2011, but in 2012, her life again changed with the horrific gang rape of Nirbhaya took place that shook the nation. Yogita started an organisation named People Against Rape in India (PARI), an organisation that aims to provide rehabilitation, justice and safety to victims of rape and their families
Yogita was at the forefront of fighting for justice for Nirbhaya. It took nine years to get justice. Yogita says that while Nirbhaya got the attention of the whole nation, there are other cases that go unseen and have been in court for over 15 years. There are even young girls who are rape victims and seeing these girls breaks Yogita’s heart.
Having spent years working closely with rape victims, Yogita has become privy to several issues, she says. “We’re failing at two levels here,” she explains. “Firstly, at the policy level — many laws and reforms exist to benefit women and victims, but what’s lacking is effective implementation. Then there’s a problem at the society level — how do we see our women? We see them as either goddesses or as whores. The projection of women has to be as an equal, not above and not below.”
Yogita began conducting research, filing RTIs, and conducting groundwork for rape victims — medical aid, police intervention, legal process and more. PARI runs several key programmes such as We Men, which works to involve men in the cause of women’s safety, gender sensitisation and more. Meanwhile, Project Ummeed deals with promoting safe driving and adherence to traffic rules by blue line bus drivers by working for the overall mental well-being of drivers through counselling sessions and workshops.
Project Utthhan works for poverty elimination, with their target audience specifically being widows, single women, and other vulnerable groups. Through skill development programmes, PARI trained and placed over 1,000 women from economically weaker sections of society as cab drivers, housekeeping staff and car cleaners.
Yogita says that all she can say to those she works with is that “I can’t promise you justice, but I will be there with you in your fight.”
Credits: The Better India
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